When my kids were little and at home, I tried to teach them the value of ASKING for what they wanted. But like so many people, they were initially afraid. They’d say things like, “Dad, can you ask Jimmy’s mother if… or… Dad, will you ask the coach if…” They didn’t want to ASK for themselves.
And yet, “asking” is one of the key skills you’ve got to master if you’re going to get the cooperation of others or form a healthy relationship with someone. Expecting someone to know what you want — without asking — is pure craziness. People can’t read minds.
I would coach my kids on how to ask and I’d let them practice as I observed from a distance. If, for example, they wanted to return something to a store and get a refund, I’d have them ask… rather than have me do it for them. Of course, they didn’t want to but I wanted them to become effective, assertive, self-empowered adults.
Author Mark Victor Hansen calls asking, “The Aladdin Factor.” In other words, if you ask in the right way, it works like magic. You’ll get an awful lot more of what you want on and off the job. Indeed, effective, engaged, results-producing asking is one of the 12 secrets of success that I teach in my Journey-to-the-Extraordinary experience.
Of course, a newsletter like this cannot compare to the real live Journey and you can’t master a skill by merely reading about it. But let me give you a few tips on how you can ASK more effectively.
1. Tell yourself there is nothing to fear.
As Franklin Roosevelt said, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” And that can be applied to the skill of asking.
People are often afraid to ask for what they want because they’re afraid of horrific rejection and humiliation. But that’s just plain silly.
Think about it. There are very few times in life when you asked for something, and as a result of asking, you suffered severe consequences. In most cases, no one hit you, spit upon you, or wrote you up in the newspaper. In most cases, about the worst thing that did happen or could happen is someone saying “no,” and you can handle that.
As an old Chinese proverb says, “He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes. He who does not ask a question is a fool forever.”
Before you make your request, remind yourself how important your request is. Tell yourself that the only thing that matters is whether or not you are making a good, clear point. By focusing on the merits of your request — and not on how you will appear to others — your fears will diminish.
2. Sell yourself.
Before you try to sell others, you’ve got to sell yourself. You’ve got to believe that you will eventually win over the other side or you’ll ask with less confidence and determination. And that will cause the other person to take you and your points less seriously.
3. Organize your thoughts.
The worst time to figure out how you’re going to phrase your request is when you’re about to make your request. Indeed, professional sales people (who should be professional askers) can tell you hundreds of stories about the bad results they got when they simply “winged it” or “made it up as they went along.”
So think about what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it before you ask. You might even write out your phraseology … specifying exactly what you want. Rewrite your points until your request is clear and can be easily communicated. You can’t expect to get the results you want if the other side doesn’t understand your request.
4. Ask with confidence.
You might practice your request in front of a mirror, or you might ask someone else how you sound when you ask. You want to come across with sincerity and enthusiasm.
When you ask from the heart, when you’re perceived as firm, polite, passionate, and friendly, you increase your odds of success or getting the “yes” you want. So make sure your voice sounds confident. And make sure you maintain steady eye contact to show that you are serious.
5. Prepare for resistance.
Even if you do everything right, you might still meet some resistance. The other person might want to confer with somebody else. He might put you off — hoping you’ll forget about it — or just plain say, “no.”
If someone resists your request, remind yourself that you may not get what you want immediately. So what? Don’t view the other person’s resistance as a dead end but merely part of a continuing discussion.
And by all means, avoid any extreme emotional reaction. If you lose your temper or become deeply discouraged, you will almost certainly doom your request. Just be polite, gracious, and firm.
6. Say “Thanks.”
Whether or not you get what you want, say, “Thank you.” Gratitude will make the other person more open to giving you what you want — or more of what you want — in the future.
You can say “thanks” directly or you can follow-up with a note. Whatever method you choose, gratitude keeps you from holding a grudge — which is difficult to hide — and only works against you in the long run.
7. Remind yourself that most people like to be asked.
Mamie Adams taught me that.
Mamie always went to a branch post office in her town because the postal employees at that location were very friendly. One year, just before Christmas, she went there to buy stamps even though the lines were particularly long.
Someone pointed out that there was no need to wait in line because there was a stamp machine in the lobby. “I know,” said Mamie, “but the machine won’t ask me about my arthritis.” You see, people like to be asked.
Even the Bible says, “Ask and you shall receive.” Try using some of these tips when you ask and I know you will get a lot more from your coworkers, customers, and even your family members.
Final Thought: To G-E-T you have to A-S-K. Asking questions is what brains were made to do.